Masterton's Beath

Mastertons Beath

Beath, Fife, Scotland


From Fifae Vicecomitatus. The Sherifdome of Fyfe, by Joan Blaeu after James Gordon: Amsterdam: Blaeu 1654. Source: National Library of Scotland

The Place-Names of Fife

by Simon Taylor with Gilbert Markus

BEATH-HALKETT[Beath parish], Dunfermline Settlement; National Grid Ref NT135915; (within 1km radius)

  Beicht-Hacheid 1557 x 1585 RMS v no. 898 [also Beicht-Hakheid; see BEA Introduction]
  Maisterton B[eth] 1642 Gordon MS Fife
  M[aiste]rtounsbaith 1646 Henderson 1865, 18
  Maisterton beth 1654 Blaeu (Gordon) Fife
  Baith-Halket alias Mastertouns-Baith 1669 Retours i Fife no. 1056 [in the parish of Dunfermline; held by the Wardlaws]

existing place name Beath + personal name Halkett

The Halketts of Pitfirrane were an important local family (see Dunf. Reg. Ct. Bk. 168-71). Beath-Halkett was also, and later, called Mastertonsbeath. There was a Dunfermline burgess family called Masterton (Mastirto(u)ne), members of which appear frequently in the burgh records from 1488 onwards (see Dunf. Recs. passim). They took their name from Mastertown DFL. In 1601 Alexander Maistertoun held the lands of Kirkton (Kirktoun) and Muirton (Mwretoun) of Beath from Inchcolm (Inchcolm Chrs. p. 225), and it was probably at this time that Mastertons held Beath-Halkett.

In 1557 Beath-Halkett is situated between Stevensonsbeath, Bonallysbeath, Turnbullsbeath (i.e. Dalbeath), Leuchatsbeath and the commonty of Inchcolm (RMS v no. 898; for full details see BEA Introduction). Blaeu (Gordon) Fife places Maisterton beth between Beth K[irk] and Loch Fitty, north of the Hill of Beath and Dalbeath (Hackstons beth).

The Place-Names of Fife
Volume One. West Fife between Leven And Forth

Simon Taylor with Gilbert Markus.
Shaun Tyas, Donington, 2006
pp 337-8; p 331

Reproduced with permission of the author. Links to maps by permission of National Library of Scotland.

Beath Place-Names in West Fife

by T. F. Hunter


Of all the old Dunfermline Abbey possessions that acquired the name of "Beath" in their title, this was the one furthest north. It was bordering on the equally old barony of Beath, a barony originally belonging to the Abbey of Inchcolm, and which was situated in the middle and the north-east of the future Beath parish (see Part 1).

In the late 16th and early 17thC two names were used for this estate. One was Mastertons Beath and the other was Beath Halkett (see following section). As far as can be determined these lands were identical.

As late as the Retours (NN) for the year 1669 the entry is "Baith-Halket alias Mastertouns-Beath", i.e. both the old names were apparently still used. By that date the property (or at least part of it) was associated with the Wardlaws of West Luscar. In 1645 James Wardlaw of Wester Luscar married Agnes Mitchell, daughter of James Mitchell of Baith Halket, and it was through this marriage that the Wardlaw association came about. James Mitchell had been in the property for some time and well before the Retours entry of 1669 the estate had started to be known as Mitchell's Beath. This was in fact the name which normally applied for much of the 17thC, and, as is detailed below, by the 18thC and later, the estate took on a variety of names: viz. replacing Mitchell's Beath were Meiklebeath, Newbeath and Beatsons Beath.

This estate, then, over the centuries, was one of many different names. In the present Section, the label Mastertons Beath is examined. (Beath Halkett possibly may be the older of these two names, but it is Mastertons Beath which shows the much larger number of references in the 16th and early 17thC.)

In the Dunfermline Registrum (m):
  Appendix III: 1555-1583; "Carta deod. Alexander Maistertoun et Catherine brown eius spouse de terris de maistertoun baith"
  Appendix III: 1555-1583: "Carta Alexander Maistertoun eiusque spouse de quatour septimis partibus de Grange in warrantum terrarum de baith Maistertoun"

A Spittal of Leuchat document (GD 172, SRO) of 1570 has a witness "Alexander Maistertoun in Beath". A later one describes a legal action by Spittal in 1607 against William Masterton, son of the "umquhile Alexander Masterton of Masterton Beath", and Christian Masterton: she was William's sister and was married to John Reddie who was in the nearby property of Leuchatsbeath. By 1621 it was "Robert Masterton of Masterton Beath": see below for details of this charter. Similarly (GD 172, SRO) in 1644 (and again in 1653-56) there is a discharge by Christian Masterton, relict of John Reddie, and William Masterton, burgess of Dunfermline, her brother and assignee, to Alexander Spittal of annual rent on Leuchatsbeath.

In the Great Seal (O):
  (RMS, vi, 75): 1593: to Queen Ann: "...Maistertounes-baith..."
  (RMS, ix, 488): 1636: "Robert Masterton of Baith-Halket alias Maistertounes-Baith"
  (RMS, ix, 550): 1636: "Alexander Masterton of Baith-Halket alias Maistertounes-Baith"

In the Sasine Records (II):
  1631: Alexander Maistertoun of Baith Halket alias Maistertounes Baith
  1631: Robert Maistertoun, wife Margaret Maistertoun, of Baith Halket alias Maistertounes Baith
  1643: Alexander Aitken of Baith Halkett alias Maister Veimes Baith (this is really Maistertounes Baith), merchant in Edinburgh, spouse Katherine Fleming
  1645: James Mitchell of Baith Halket alias Mastertouns Baith and his spouse Isobel Cunningham
  1646: Agnes Mitchell, daughter of James Wardlaw, portioner of Wester Luscar

On maps:
Blaeu, Gordon, 1636-1652, "Maisterton B"
Blaeu, Pont, 1654, not present
Moll, 1745, not present
Ainslie, 1775, not present
Thomson and Johnson, 1827, not present
Sharp, Greenwood and Fowler, 1828, not present
OS and other modern Maps, not present.
(N.B. The description "not present" refers to the place-name Masterton's Beath, and not to the actual estate which was present on the maps under different names.)

The exact position of Mastertons Beath, as such, is thus unknown, but Blaeu indicates somewhere to the west of Beath Kirk and this general area is also suggested in (RMS, v, 898). In fact, its position, for example, with the later name Meiklebeath is, of course, well established.

Mastertons Beath's overall place in the north of the "Dunfermline Beaths" region is substantiated in a general manner by the Kirk Session entry (J) in 1646 ..."...8th Quarter... ....mrtounsbaith.....Halkistounsbaith..."... ("Halkistounsbaith" is, of course, Halkerstons Beath and is totally different from Beath Halkett).

The Masterton family were present in the area from the earliest times. Their main estate was named Masterton and it lies to the south of Dunfermline, towards Inverkeithing, many miles away from Masterton's Beath. Masterton is a very old estate, initially named Lecmacdunegil or Lecmacdungal: this means "the hillside of the sons of Dungal" (Q). A Master Aelric worked at Dunfermline Abbey around the middle of the 12thC. A charter of Malcolm IV (1153-1165) granted the lands of "Lecmacdunegil, afterwards called Masterton" to the Abbey Church at Dunfermline, and commented that they were formerly held by "Magister Ailricus cementarius".

The estate name, and this the surname, came from Hugo de Villa Magistri around 1250 ("Hugo of the Master's Township"). By 1272 the son and heir of Hugh was known as William de Maystertoun ("toun of the master"). In that year William had an agreement with Symon, Abbot of Dunfermline, and in 1296 he swore fealty to Edward I of England.

From then on, the surname occurs regularly in the Dunfermline Burgh records (LL) and in the Inchcolm charters (b). In this latter source:
1559: "Robert Maistertoun" as witness
1565: "Alexander Mastertoun" as witness
1570: "Alexander Maistertoun in Baytht" as witness
1601: "Alexander Maistertoun for the landis of Kirktoun and Mureton of Beath in taxt....iiij s. iiij d."

The Kirkton and the Mureton mentioned here were, of course, part of the barony of Beath, owned initially by Inchcolm, and were just to the north of Mastertons Beath.They are discussed in Sections 7)(A) and 7)(E).

Section 7)(E) dealt with a particular charter from the Henderson Papers. In this, Robert Masterton in 1564 was planting crops on the "muir of Beath", an area which, it was suggested, stretched out from around the Kirk towards Loch Fitty in the west. His "master" is stated as James Stewart of Inchcolm and obviously the lands referred to were part of the barony. (A connection to the Stewarts, who were so powerful in Beath, is evident. Later, in fact, in the sasine records (HH) for 1608, James Maistertoune was a portioner in Baith-Under-The-Hill: his wife was Grisel Stewart, the sister of John Stewart who was the Servitor to James, Earl of Moray.) A good deal later in 1621 a Robert Masterton (presumably a son or grandson) is described as "of Mastertonsbeath", and in 1628 (RMS, viii, 1239) it is stated that he is occupying "the lands of Mureton of Baith".

There is a strong suggestion in the above that Mastertons Beath, in the Dunfermline "control area", and the Mureton of Beath, in the Inchcolm area, were not only adjacent in that region west of Beath Kirk but, at this time, were both in the hands of the Masterton family. The Mastertons thus had connections to both Abbeys and their successors.

The "mure of Beath" (see the quotes in Section 7)(E)) was largely "commonty", and, with Mastertons Beath, was almost certainly rather poor land: this would explain the large acreage of the Masterton holding in the area.

The relevant quotes:
(i) Henderson Papers (GD 172, SRO), for 6th April, 1564: "Decreet arbitral by Patrick Halkett (Halked) of Pitfirrane (Pitferran) and John Lyndsay of Dowhill (Douhyll) in submission between Robert Masterton (Mastertoun), with consent of his master, James Stewart, commendator of St. Colm's Inch, and Harry Stewart, his brother and chamberlain, on the one part, and William Spittal of Leuchat, on the other part, finding that Masterton wrongeously sowed crops on the muir of Beath, which is "to lye as commonite untelit in all tymis cumming"..

(ii) And later, in 1621: "Precept by the bailies of the lordship of St Colm (Santcolme) and barony of Beath at instance of Alexander Spittal of Blair against Robert Masterton of Mastertonsbeath and Alexander Kininmonth (Kynynmonth), his tenant in Kirkton of Beath, for tilling and sowing the commonty of Beath, of arrestment of corns growing on lands of Kirkton of Beath and said commonty."

(iii) The extent of these lands out to the west, i.e. the commonty, occupied by the Mastertons, is indicated in a charter to Alexander Foulis (RMS, ix, 1496) ..."cum communitate in communia de Beath ad lacum vocat. Lochfuttie..."....

Thus Robert and Alexander Masterton were involved in both the Dunfermline and Inchcolm properties in the late 16thC and early 17thC. They may well have been the sons of a Robert Masterton who was a witness in 1559 to a charter (b) granting the lands of "Muretoun of Baith and half of Knoksodrum" to Henry Stewart, brother to the Inchcolm Commendator.

Alexander is noted in the Moray Charters (b), dated 1601, in a taxation roll for Inchcolm lands in which the sum of 53 shillings and 4 pence is ascribed to ..."Alexander Maistertoun for the landis of Kirktoun and Mureton of Beath..."...At very much this same period, he is also in the Dunfermline property of Mastertons Beath with his wife Catherine: i.e. obtaining a feu-charter of "the lands of Beath, called Masterton-Beath and of 4/7th of the lands of Grange". His wife was, in fact, Catherine Brown, and they were in occupation at Mastertons Beath around 1580 (m). This Alexander was dead before 1607 and was replaced by his sons Andrew and William, who , in turn, gave way in the 1630s to grandsons Robert and Alexander.


This, then, was the other possible early name for the property of Mastertons Beath discussed in the last Section. The item from the Retours (NN) for 1669 is quite explicit, i.e. "Beath-Halket alias Mastertouns-Baith". Both these names were replaced by others at later dates.

In the Great Seal (O):
  (RMS, v, 898): dated 1585, but this charter is one of 1557: the charter is to Allan Coutts and his wife: Coutts was Chamberlain (treasurer) of Dunfermline Abbey: "Beicht-Hacheid" and "Beicht-Hakheid"
  (RMS, ix, 488): 1636: "Robert Masterton of Baith-Halket alias Maistertounes-Baith"
  (RMS, ix, 550): 1636: "Alexander Masterton of Baith-Halket alias Maistertounes-Baith"

The 1557 Charter is early and probably indicates that this Halkett name was in place before the advent of the Mastertons around 1560 or so: see discussion of the Mastertons in the last Section. The 1564 Henderson Paper (GD 172, SRO) on Robert Masterton and the "mure of Beath" starts:
"Decreet arbitral by Patrick Halkett (Halked) of Pitfirrane (Pitferran) and John Lyndsay of Dowhill (Douhyll) in submission......."

There is here the indication that the name Beath Halkett possibly originated with the owner of the Pitfirrane Estate, near Dunfermline, viz. Patrick Halkett ("Halked"). He obviously had some interest in the lands around the "mure" of Beath.

The Halketts initially had lands in the north of the area, around Lumphinnans, but from 1399 they started their acquisition of Pitfirrane. The family was extremely important in the Dunfermline region (Y),(PP),(n),(WWW). The origin of the name, however, was probably in the west of Scotland, from the famous hunting reserve in Renfrewshire called "Hawkheid": certainly early forms of the surname were of this form, e.g. Halkeid.

It seems that the first individual designated as "of Pitfirrane" was David de Halkett in 1437, and the family and their properties are fairly well documented from that time. In addition to Pitfirrane they had other local possessions and also acquired lands in Forfarshire and elsewhere.

The "Patrick Halked" in the Decreet Arbitral of 1564 above (GD 172, SRO) was the son of John Halkett of Pitfirrane and his wife Elizabeth Ayton. He first appears in 1524, initially with tack at Knokhouse, and then, soon after this, with sasine at Pitfirrane. Patrick acquired lands at Pitconnochy, part of which he sold to the Ayton family (presumably that of his mother) in 1569, and part to Allan Coutts in 1576 (Coutts was chamberlain (treasurer) of Dunfermline Abbey). Patrick Halkett was, in fact, close to Coutts, being from around 1548 a bailie of the "Monastery of Dunfermline"(Y).

In that critical pre-Reformation time around 1540 to 1560 the indications, then, are that Patrick received a form of ownership on this part of Beath to the west of Beath Kirk through his association with Allan Coutts. It thus became known as Beath Halket. The family did not remain there for any length of time, the lands going to the Mastertons as discussed in the last Section. The Halketts continued at Pitfirrane, however, for several centuries: their standing in the Dunfermline area is well documented in all the local references (OO),(PP).

Beath Place-Names in West Fife
including an analysis of the history of Beath parish

T.F. Hunter.
Branksome. 2005
pp 268-273

Links to maps by permission of National Library of Scotland.